Jim Walters’ impact memorialized with statue

two adults and two children stand on either side of a bronze statue
Members of the Walters family unveil a statue of Jim Walters during a ceremony held Wednesday, Jan. 25, at Brenau University.

The legacy of James A. “Jim” Walters, Gainesville resident and former member of the Brenau Board of Trustees, has been memorialized with a life-sized statue at the university.

His 2021 obituary noted that Walters was known as “Big Jim” because of “his big stature, his big smile, and his big laugh, but also for his big opinions, big advice, and most importantly his big heart.”

The statue, sculpted by regional artist Gregory Johnson, was gifted to Brenau by friends of Walters. The statue is the fourth by Johnson on Brenau’s historic Gainesville Campus, including the iconic Lucile Golden Tiger near the Jacobs Building.

Brenau President Anne A. Skleder thanked donors and acknowledged Walters’ contributions to the community during remarks at a dedication ceremony held Wednesday, Jan. 25.

“I also need to thank John Addison, a new member of our Board of Trustees, and Philip Wilheit, a trustee emeritus, for their leadership in bringing this effort to fruition,” Skleder said. “Jim Walters was one of Brenau’s leading benefactors, but his legacy of support to so many groups long will be felt across the region and across the state.”

“Jim Walters was one of Brenau’s leading benefactors, but his legacy of support to so many groups long will be felt across the region and across the state.”

Brenau President Anne A. Skleder

The statue stands on the front lawn of the namesake Walters House at 305 Boulevard. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the circa 1903 house was renamed in 2005 to honor Walters’ gift for capital improvements across the university.

It’s only one of many spaces at Brenau and across Hall County bearing the Walters name in recognition of his financial generosity and community service.

Walters also was instrumental in Brenau acquiring the Downtown Center, formerly known as the Georgia Mountain Center, from the city of Gainesville. Today, the facility houses many of Brenau’s health care programs and serves as the cornerstone of the recently established Downtown Campus.

He was one of Brenau’s leading benefactors, and was recognized by the university during his lifetime with an honorary doctorate and a Distinguished Service to Brenau award.

A native of North Carolina, Walters moved to Gainesville in 1970 and was president and owner of James A. Walters Management Co.

Walters supported the community for decades through service to a number of boards and organizations including the Chattahoochee Country Club, Elachee Nature Museum Board, The Elks Club, the Gainesville College Foundation, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Wildlife Federation, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Hall County Quality Growth Council, Lakeview Academy Board of Directors, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation Board, United Way of Hall County and We Care, Inc.

Jim and wife Peggy, who died in 2022, were married for 60 years and had two daughters and multiple grandchildren.

Close up shows the smiling face of bronze statue of Jim Walters
A bronze statue of Jim Walters, gifted to the university, recognizes his contributions to the community.